Henry_Kepple_Beck_self_portrait

The nine by sixteen foot painting of the Resurrection above Trinity’s pulpit was painted on plaster in 1893 by Henry Kepple Beck (pictured above). However, before talking about Henry, or “Harry” as he was referred to by family and friends, it would be appropriate to talk first about his father, Julius Augustus Beck, a well-known artist from Lititz.

Julius married Susan Maria Kepple, the granddaughter of Johannes Demuth of the East King Street tobacco shop family. She was thus a distant cousin to the famous Lancaster painter Charles Demuth. Julius became very well-known as a painter of portraits and landscapes, especially Susquehanna River Valley landscapes. He was also an accomplished stone sculptor. The lion’s head carved in 1857 from a natural outcrop of rock in Lititz Springs Park included his signature. Together Julius and Susan had four sons and four daughters. Four sons and one daughter became distinguished artists.

Untitled“Lion’s Head” carved by Julius Augustus Beck in 1857

Their second son, Henry Kepple Beck, was born in Harrisburg in 1862. He was a prolific painter. He studied with his father and in 1889 traveled to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France. In Paris he studied with Blanc, Courtois, and Gerome. Studies at that time consisted of being in one of the Academies, which were large barn-like studio lofts where students painted and drew. Harry returned to Harrisburg and lived at home without marrying. In 1893 he painted our Resurrection mural for the sum of $300.00. Charles L. Fry was our pastor at the time.

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It is sometimes difficult to distinguish a small landscape by Henry from that of his father. They often painted on the same subject. Although Henry was a landscape painter by nature, he was a fine portrait painter as well. He spent a good bit of time living in Elgin, Illinois, working as an illustrator for the David Cook Publishing Company. He was very successful, exhibiting work in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, the Watercolor Society of New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. When Henry died of a heart attack at his Camp Hill home in 1937, his obituary carried the comment that he “was Harrisburg’s most eminent painter”.

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Women and Dog at the Edge of a Lake

As is true of stained glass picture windows, the scene in his famed Resurrection Mural can be described as “the artist’s interpretation”. If one reads the story of the Resurrection in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it is interesting to see how they are each a little different in details. The story in Matthew 28, verses 1 through 10, seems to fit our mural fairly well.

This mural was beautifully restored in 2004 by Lancaster Galleries, under the direction of artist John David Wissler (pictured below).

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Some of the Beck family material was taken from a 1985 talk prepared by Donald Winer, Curator of Fine Arts at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.